Contractors and handymen who pulled into Discount Builders Supply’s parking lot last week for lumber and paint also found artists Jennifer Ewing and Leo Germano at work finishing the Mission’s latest mural. The two-piece wall painting frames both entrances and offers customers a sneak preview of the store, a giant treasure trove for all things DIY.
“Discount Builders Supply has been a family business for years, but the building is a tower of concrete and steel without any personality. We wanted something that customers could relate to and put a smile on their face,” said Shannon Brundieck, one of the store’s managers and the person who had the idea for a mural.
The mural plays with optical illusion. From afar, its two giant windows — painted around the entrances in earthy tones that match the mustard-colored building — look real. Through the painted windows framing the store’s left entrance, figures mill around the customer service desk. The windows on the right take the viewer into the heart of the store, complete with rows of cabinets, windows and, in the foreground, buyers waiting patiently for the cashier to ring up goods. Customer service is the overarching theme.
Brundieck had been thinking for awhile about giving the huge building a makeover, but it wasn’t until he saw Ewing and Germano’s mural on Lombard Street that he knew he had found the right artists. “I liked their work and I wanted to have local San Franciscan artists paint this family business.”
Ewing and Germano, a couple who collaborate on commercial pieces, were quick to take the job. “When Shannon called us we were excited, we knew the place well. We had been shopping here for years, ” Ewing said.
Her partner slowly climbed down from the scaffolding last week to explain their plan. “Initially we wanted to do a piece in the style of a WPA mural, with huge portraits of working people made during the Great Depression,” Germano said.
Brundieck said the store has suffered from the economic downturn, but “In times of crisis we were really forced to think outside of the box. We thought this [mural] would be a great way to set us apart from all the commercial chains.”
Art, he said, made sense.
“Our customers are builders, handymen and artists. They are creative people. We wanted to make this more of a creative place.”
Germano took care of the general composition and perspective, and Ewing was the master of color and people. Both are artists who have had gallery shows, but on a commercial assignment like this their art is not about personal expression.
For this mural, the duo modified their WPA concept and instead settled on a piece that would enhance the store’s visibility. “Imagine, this giant wall only had two relatively small seven-foot doors. With our mural we have optically tripled them in size,” Germano said.
Working on the mural in an open store meant that Germano and Ewing drew during shopping hours, maneuvering around open doors and a stream of customers. After closing time, they had only an hour before darkness set in to complete the section above the door. “By the end we were cold and our hands were numb,” said Ewing.
Despite this, both artists enjoyed working in the public eye. “In a museum you never know how people will react to your work. But here those who like to talk will not hesitate to share their opinions of our work,” said Ewing. “Don’t forget to put in the glass windows,” a customer suggested as he walked into the store.
The mural was finished earlier this week and can be seen at 1695 Mission Street during store hours: weekdays, 7 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m-5 p.m.